The photo has been used for illustrative purposes.
Maria Panaritis, Tribune News Service
Fireworks exploded first thing on Tuesday morning and it was amazing: Twitter was crackling with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg blasting Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren, and Warren doubled down on a pledge to break up the social media behemoth to protect us all from the monopolistic company’s darker side.
The smackdown began with leaked audio of a Zuckerberg meeting with Facebook employees in which the CEO said it would “suck” if Warren were elected. Zuck vowed to aim the full force of his company against her as president: “If someone’s going to try to threaten something that existential, you go to the mat and you fight.”
Warren slammed back: “What would really ‘suck,’” she tweeted, “is if we don’t fix a corrupt system that lets giant companies like Facebook engage in illegal anticompetitive practices, stomp on consumer privacy rights, and repeatedly fumble their responsibility to protect our democracy.”
Meanwhile, all I could think about was the kids. Our kids. Your kids. Everyone’s kids. The high school kid who took his life last month in Tennessee due to cyberbullying.
Kids are walking around middle schools and high schools with smartphones and apps that have become a bully’s best friend. Live grenades, you might even say. And all we parents are doing, it seems, is watching, helplessly, as Big Tech keeps getting bigger and bigger while our kids get sucked deeper and deeper into the diabolical depths of their profit-making devices and apps.
Sure, parents try to monitor their kids’ social media use. But this can’t be all we do. Not with kids like Channing Smith becoming casualties. Just hours before Zuck vs. Warren, the story of the Tennessee high schooler’s death was making the rounds nationally. He took his own life after being humiliated by cyberbullies, his family says. Channing was distraught after a screenshot of him kissing another boy was disseminated, unbeknownst to him.
The youngster’s story was on my mind from the night before when, over a cup of morning coffee, the Twitter face-off unfolded between Zuckerberg and Warren. It felt timely.
Companies like Facebook, which also owns Instagram, control so much of our online lives, our privacy, our personal time, and with very little accountability or mechanisms to flag or halt increasingly toxic behavior. (Just how big is Facebook, you ask? Its shares are valued at $500 billion, with a ‘b.’)
From the way it handles user data to its effectively allowing its platform to be used for meddling in US elections, there are many major concerns about this company. Just as there are concerns about Google and so many other digital companies that have poked into our lives in ways large and small.
But as a parent, one concern rises above all others: What is all of this doing to our kids? And when, if ever, do we say the harm is becoming too great to ignore, whether it’s digital addiction or bullying or being victimized in some other way by the tech universe?
The digital world, in just a matter of a few years, has ballooned into a virtually lawless place. And our children are in the line of fire, whether through the exponential spread of child pornography, as a New York Times investigation recently documented, or through soul-crushing cyberbullying, which also appears to be on the rise.
Pew Research Center recently found that a majority of US teens have experienced at least one of the following: “Online cyberbullying, including name-calling, being subject to false rumours, receiving explicit images they didn’t ask for, having explicit images of themselves shared without their consent, physical threats, or being constantly asked about their location and activities in a stalker-ish fashion by someone who is not their parents.”
In Tredyffrin Township, the veteran cop in charge of police in that Chester County community agreed that officers are summoned to many more bullying calls in today’s digital age than they ever did before the advent of social media.
As tech companies worry about their hegemony, parents should step up our own worrying game. Pew found that less bullying happens if kids spend less time online. That’s a good start.
Facebook, Twitter and Google have been under fire all over the world for not doing enough to police their platforms for misinformation. The Singaporean government thinks it has a solution: a law that imposes jail time and hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential fines for posting or failing to correct what it calls “online falsehoods” that harm the public interest.
During World War II, young couples in love, separated due to military service, had very few options to communicate with one another. There was no internet or Facebook, and no cell phones, Skype or FaceTime.
I was recently reminded of an Ellen DeGeneres stand up on passwords and how we now spend our lives trying to keep up with all the accounts and their passwords we have to set up
If we can learn how to be kind to ourselves and others, it can potentially transform our lives. So how does this virtue relate to mental well-being? Why am I even writing about kindness when it comes to my experience in advocating for mental health?
The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly revolutionised the way of living in many parts of the world. There is no need to go to a shopping mall, everything can be ordered online. There is no need for a cinema. Streaming platforms will unveil the latest
“America is back. America is back!” proclaims US President Joe Biden. Indeed, America is back, back bombing eastern Syria. Bombing pro-Iranian militias which Biden accuses of mounting strikes on Iraqi bases housing US forces and on Baghdad’s
For the first time ever, the climate crisis has been recognised by the UN as a threat to global security. Sir David Attenborough addressed this week’s UN Security Council meeting, and made a passionate plea, calling on world leaders to “recognise the